Nutrition and diet are not the same thing: Nutrition is the scientific or chemical impact of macronutrients (proteins, fats, fibres and carbohydrates), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and the energy/calories a food provides. Diet is how you eat.
There are no good, bad, magical or secret foods.
Most people have similar basic needs. Once these have been met, everything else comes down to individual needs and tolerances and personal preferences.
If fat loss is your goal, energy balance is the main marker for progress. You need to take in fewer calories than you use.
Additionally, you need to make sure you're getting enough protein to maintain muscle/prevent muscle loss.
At some point, you'll probably need to track your food intake in detail. You may need to do this for a week, a month or a year depending on your goals and level of awareness regarding food.
Your habits determine your long term success. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, how you eat by default matters more than what you can manage for 4-12 weeks.
Most information as presented to the general public is incomplete at best and downright misleading or inaccurate at worst.
Learning to cook properly and season your food, will probably increase your odds of habitually eating nutritious foods.
Health and fat-loss are not necessarily the same thing: Whilst getting your BMI (Body Mass Index) to within a healthy range is one of the best things you can do, (in terms of improving health markers and reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease), there are better and worse ways of getting there.
Fat loss from exercise is pitifully slow. The number of calories the treadmill says you burned after 30 minutes, mostly come from within your blood stream or your muscles, not the jiggly stuff around your waist.
You cannot out-train a crappy diet.
Unless you're on a deadline that's career changing or a matter of life and death, focus on small, easy to manage changes rather than overhauling your life in one go.
Eat lots of fruit and veg. The more colourful the better.
Limit red meat consumption to no more than 4 times a week.
Try to typically get the bulk of your protein from white meat, fish, eggs and plant based sources (grains/legumes/pulses/nuts/seeds), with no more than 30% from supplements.
Try to consume as much real food as you can as opposed to processed or refined foods.
Aim to drink at least 2-3 litres of water a day. This may help you burn fat by improving energy conversion in hydrated cells, but it will also do wonders for your skin and overall health.
Focus on 4-5 key ingredients in any one meal, i.e. chicken, courgettes, tenderstem broccoli, freekeh and peppers. Aside from making it easier to prepare, it gives you more ongoing variety for combinations.
If you follow a predominantly plant based diet, aim for veg, nuts/seeds, grains and pulses in each meal. Whilst science currently indicates your body can piece together what it needs, we find clients do better when they habitually combine food groups.
Before every meal, drink a whole glass of water. This will help fill your stomach, improve digestion and make you feel fuller, quicker, so you’ll want to eat less.
Use a fork rather than a spoon where possible, this will make you take smaller mouthfuls and slow your eating speed down, thereby giving you more time to digest food and giving you more time to realise when you’ve had enough to eat.
Put your utensils down between mouthfuls.
Don't distract yourself when eating (i.e. don't watch tv or chat on the phone). This will help you recognise when you're full and limit overeating.
Pre-prep veg and potentially meat. This will make cooking easier and quicker.
Stock up on pestos, curry pastes and other flavouring condiments. You need less of these than sauces, but they can make a potentially bland meal taste amazing.
Aim for at least 25-30 grams of protein in each meal as this will slow down digestion, help preserve and/or build muscle, increase satiety (feeling full) and indirectly inhibit fat storage. Plus it improves your odds of meeting your minimum daily needs.
Vegetables should be as colourful as possible and ideally be grown above ground, (Spinach and cauliflower yes, onions and turnips less so).
Your last meal of the day should ideally be consumed around 2 hours before you go to bed and you should try particularly hard to keep any carbohydrates consumed in this meal as nutritious as possible as your body is probably more inclined to store unused calories as fat at nightime than during the day.
All of the above are guidelines, as is a daily calorie allowance. There will be days when either time or circumstances prevent you from following these guidelines exactly and this is to be expected. Your aim should be to follow them for as much of the week as possible, ideally 90% of the time. The more you can stick to them the quicker you will see the results you desire and the less any slips will slow your progress.
When you first start to change your eating habits, you may experience hunger pangs and/or feelings of lethargy. The first are simply cravings created by previous eating habits and not nutritional deficiencies. The second will reduce as your body adapts to the changes in your eating habits and ultimately you will likely find you have more energy and feel hungry less often.
Finally, the important thing to remember is that this is a process not an absolute. If you slip, and eat the wrong thing, don’t worry. It happens to everyone at some stage. The key is to get back on track as quickly as possible. As time goes by you’ll find that this becomes easier and easier to do. It may also make it easier to consider that when you get to the body shape/ weight you want it’s a lot easier to maintain than obtain. Getting there’s the hard part, by comparison, staying there’s easy.